You’ve hear about the churches that major on gay marriage or single out gays for exclusion and ridicule. They get lots of press.
Here’s what many other churches are doing. You won’t hear about them in the paper so I thought I would share one story about the “Other” American church here:
One morning last May, my husband was heading to his Sunday School class when he saw a young woman coming down the hall at church. “Good morning,” he said. The woman burst into tears. Katie, age 27, and I sat down in my husband’s office. After hearing ten minutes of her story I blurted out “You need to move in with us. Today.” Katie and her beautiful seven-year-old daughter Izzy had drifted from one unloving, unsafe situation to another for most of their lives. They were in crisis- without even a car to live in. “Our place is not a long-term solution,” I said. “But at least you two will have a safe, stable place to rest for a few days until we can find something permanent.” We moved the two of them in that day, along with Molly, their Jack Russell Terrier.
As the days stretched into weeks, it was clear that our loud, busy, only-one-shower, not-made-for-eight-people home was exactly where Katie and Izzy belonged. The first couple weeks the two of them simply learned to relax. I remember one night when Katie was at a meeting and I put Izzy to bed. She laid stiff as a board as I sang to her, eyes boring into me, hyper-aware. I said that she could close her eyes if she wanted to. Dutifully, she did. After ten minutes of lying perfectly still I asked if she was still awake. Her eyes flew open. She had been watching me with eyes closed.
But Izzy found fast friends in our children. She has begun to shed her self-protective behaviors and is growing in honestly, responsibility and trust for others. For all she has had to live through she is remarkably tender-hearted. After several months of imaginative and outdoor play, stability, and security- Katie remarked the other day that “Izzy has learned to be a child for the first time.”
Katie too was learning to let her guard down and trust. That first month, there were many late night talks, tears, and processing. Over and over she would say things like “I never knew that…” insert phrases like “a home could be so peaceful,” “a man could love his wife like that,” “kids could be so carefree.” Katie was cheated out of the family she deserved as a child. She was beginning to realize the depth of her loss. But Katie was done being the victim and was determined to not let her past define her. So she is doing the hard work. Most of us can only tackle one area of our life at a time- learning organizational skills, changing our diet/exercise, growing our relationship with God, managing our finances more efficiently, processing through childhood wounds, or learning to parent differently. Katie is doing it all at once.
Aside from all the emotional growth and adjustment, there were logistics- getting her a bike for transportation to work, setting up their room in the basement, switching addresses and emergency contact info, coordinating with DSHS. Then Katie lost her job. We were all at God’s feet asking Him what we were going to do now. Job options for Katie are limited because she has few skills and no post-High School education. She was trapped. Even if she could get a job, she couldn’t earn enough for the two of them to live on their own.
But here’s the beautiful part. The part that I want to shout from the mountain top. Katie and Izzy are not alone any more. Two weeks before Katie found our church she surrendered herself. She threw her hands up in the air and cried out to God, “I’m done! I can’t do this on my own anymore! If you get Izzy and me out of this situation, I promise I will give myself to you completely.” And then He rescued them. He plucked them out of the darkness of loneliness and constant predators and flooded them with relational and spiritual light. He saved her from the place where she bore her burden alone. He provided for her needs, above and beyond anything she could have asked for. Everything in their lives has changed. Everything.
He did this through His people. Christian principles alone do not rescue. Christian principles being lived out through His children do. Having Katie and Izzy with us has given us a front-row seat to the church in action. So many people have contributed to their trajectory of success. Friends have donated needed items- a refrigerator, a bike, a helmet, shoes, clothes, furniture, and now a car. People have donated time- babysitting, help with paperwork, giving rides, running errands. Women have provided work for Katie in the absence of a formal job so she can buy necessities for herself and her child. Mentors and friends have stepped forward in long-term commitment to this small family. Goals have been reached- Katie got her driver’s license, has lost weight (she looks so good!), has overcome relational difficulties, and has stayed within a budget for several consecutive months. This is not just a story about good-hearted people. This is the story of a Great God finding two of His lost children… and using the church to accomplish His task.
Five months ago, Katie and Izzy were utterly alone. Now they have 200+ people cheering and supporting them. They were destitute, now they have a hope and a future. They were sad and frightened, now they overflow with joy. The two of them are on track to break generational and cyclical patterns of brokenness and poverty. Yesterday they both began a new chapter of their lives. Katie started a program at the community college, whereupon graduation she will be qualified for jobs that provide her with a living wage. And because of an anonymous donor (who was seeking a way to worship God by helping “the fatherless”) yesterday Izzy enrolled at an excellent, small and caring private school. It will provide an environment that will nurture her tender heart and set her on a path to academic success.
If you are in the family of Christ- marvel and worship with me. Rejoice over these treasures that were once lost and are now found. Our God saves in every way that matters.
If you are on the outside looking in, give Christ a chance. He longs to be known by you and desires that you would seek Him, if perhaps you might grope for God and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)